Fit and Fine by Kamal Singh CSCS: Greasing the groove
“Strength is a skill and like any other skill, it needs to be constantly worked at,” said Pavel Tsatsouline, strength coach and the person responsible for introducing or rather re-introducing the Kettlebell.
During the 1980s and early 1990s, the exercise Gurus were asking people to train each muscle to failure. In fact, they would recommend advanced techniques like forced repetitions, pre-exhaustion training to go beyond failure. This type of training was the reason behind trainees adopting one body part a day training split, because recovery was severely hit while training in this manner. Then Pavel Tsatsouline came along and turned everything on its head.
How to grease the groove
The concept is pretty simple, take a movement that you are weak in – pushups, pull ups, dips. Do it frequently through the day, stopping short of failure. The idea being that mind and body remain fresh to do the exercise frequently – greasing the neurological groove. This frequent training leads to improved and efficient technique, increased mind-muscle link and what Pavel calls Synaptic Facilitation. Rapid improvement in number of pull ups, pushups etc is seen when Grease the Groove principle is used properly. Here’s how to utilize it:
•Let’s take pull ups – say you can do 4 pull ups. Put a pull up bar in the door of your bedroom. Every time you pass by it do 2 pull ups. That’s right, only 2 pull ups.
•By doing pull ups multiple times a day, you would have ended doing 8-10 pull ups in a day, without exhausting your grip or your upper back.
•Do this routine three times a week. Avoid training like this more than three days a week as it could lead to overuse issues.
•Two weeks later, increase the number of repetitions to 3. The total number of repetitions done through the day would have gone up to 12-15.
•In the fifth week, test the number of pull ups you can do. Most people have easily doubled the number of repetitions they were doing earlier.
•A lot of theories have been put forward why this happens. I will not bore you with the technical jargon, except this method works brilliantly and that too in double quick time.
Pros and Cons of Grease the Groove
As good as the GtG method is, it has its pros and cons.
Let’s start with the good points:
1.Ease of use – does not require too much equipment, complex formulae or charts to figure out the sets and repetitions. Reduce the total number of repetitions you can do, do those reps over 4-6 sets spread through the day. Rinse, repeat.
2.Quick results – strength goes up quickly. You don’t wait for months for the results to be seen.
3.Any time – you don’t need an extensive warm up. Drop down do the pushups or jump up, grab the bar and bang out the reps.
4.Little to no soreness.
5.Ideal for people who have little time but want to improve their fitness. You can do your pushups in the corner of your office. No fuss, no muss.
6.GtG style of training can be added to a regular training program. Go to the gym do your planned program. On the rest days you can do the extra work.
And the not-so-great points are:
1.Only few exercises can be used in the GtG mode – primarily bodyweight exercises like pushups, dips and pullups and Kettlebell exercises like Swings, Snatches and Jerks.
2.Strength can be gained on this program but it fails if looking for muscle size.
3.People might think you are a weirdo, if you suddenly doing pushups and pullups through the day.
4.Mental burnout happens very quickly when the repetitions start to go up. Progress stops and people start dreading the days when they are greasing the groove! That’s the time to dump GtG and do something else.
5.Overuse injuries to the wrist, elbow and shoulder can happen if too much volume – sets and reps – is accumulated quickly.
As they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. So, try Greasing the Groove and see if it works for you. I am sure you will not be disappointed, if you go about it smartly and keep your ego in check. Now go and do it.
Kamal Singh is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist who has been coaching for 15 years
From HT Brunch, September 5, 2021
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